Gaffney gets off to winning start as Saints score late against Gloucester

Ken Pisi started the scoring for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Ken Pisi started the scoring for Saints (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

A last-gasp penalty try provided some sweet relief for Saints as they beat Gloucester 22-19 to win an Aviva Premiership game for the first time since September 30.

It was a winning start to life at a jubilant Franklin's Gardens for new coaching consultant Alan Gaffney, who had only arrived in Northampton six days earlier.

The penalty try in the final minute of the match gave Gaffney reason to smile as it added to earlier efforts from Ken Pisi and Nic Groom to secure a vital Saints victory.

Gloucester had looked set to squeeze home, but Saints, backed by vocal support from the home fans, pushed their way towards the line and referee Ian Tempest awarded them the winning score.

Saints had gone into the match on a run of seven successive league defeats and having won just one of their past 13 matches in all competitions.

They got an early reprieve as Gloucester fly-half Owen Williams fluffed his lines from the tee.

And Saints didn't waste much time in making Williams pay as a slick move from left to right resulted in a fine finish from Samoan wing Pisi.

Harry Mallinder hit the post with the tricky conversion attempt from out wide and Gloucester were soon at the Saints door.

A huge drive forced Tempest to award a penalty try and Api Ratuniyarawa paid a further price as he was sin-binned in a double blow for the home side.

Saints then had to repel more pressure from the Cherry and Whites with new defence coach Phil Dowson clapping after his team won a penalty to give them some respite.

And the green, black and gold were to regain the lead seconds before Ratuniyarawa returned from the sin bin as Mallinder struck a penalty between the posts.

But after Saints' defence splintered, Gloucester went back in front as James Hanson forced his way over the line.

Williams converted to make it 14-8 to the away side and there were few other events of note before the break as Saints left the field again needed a second-half response.

The hosts had plenty of possession just after half-time, but they couldn't make the ball stick at the crucial moments and Gloucester held out.

Saints lost Luther Burrell to injury before putting in a big defensive effort to deny the Cherry and Whites, who had kicked to the corner in a bid to drive their opponents over.

Saints did eventually concede a third try when Williams offloaded brilliantly to onrushing prop John Afoa, who had the simple task of scoring.

Williams missed the conversion but his team were now 19-8 up and seeking a bonus-point score.

But it was Saints who were to score next as they produced a stirring response.

Pisi superbly claimed the kick-off, giving his side a platform, and Groom grabbed the game by the scruff of the next, stretching out an arm to score.

Mallinder converted to cut the gap to just four with 23 minutes remaining.

Williams spurned a penalty chance five minutes later and Saints' hope remained as the noise levels continued to increase at the Gardens.

Saints' lineout struggles were really costing them, as Gloucester continually pinched the ball to prevent and build-up of pressure.

That was until the final seconds of the match, when Gloucester gave away a penalty and Mallinder booted the ball to the corner.

The Gardens fans roared their team on from the resulting drive and eventually Saints forced the referee to award a penalty try that inspired a huge roar from the delighted supporters.

Saints then held their nerve, gathering the kick-off and giving the ball to Mallinder, who kicked it out to secure the win.

Saints: Tuala; Foden, Horne, Burrell (Stephenson 48), Pisi; Mallinder, Groom (Reinach 73); Ma'afu (Van Wyk 64), Hartley (c) (Haywood 55), Ford-Robinson (Brookes 47); Ratuniyarawa, Lawes; Wood, Gibson, Harrison.

Gloucester: Marshall; Woodward, Trinder, Symons, Halaifonua; Williams (Twelvetrees 65), Heinz (c) (Vellacott 61); Hohneck (Orr 73), Hanson (Matu'u 68), Afoa (Balmain 68); Slater, Galarza (Savage 68); Ackermann, Polledri, Morgan (Ludlow 61).

Referee: Ian Tempest

Nic Groom got on the scoresheet at the Gardens

Nic Groom got on the scoresheet at the Gardens

Attendance: 13,089

Teimana Harrison was named man of the match

Teimana Harrison was named man of the match

Dylan Hartley skippered Saints

Dylan Hartley skippered Saints